An Open Letter to Bill Gates

To Bill Gates from a man in the trenches

As I was preparing to write this column and focusing on recent announcements about Windows Vista and Longhorn Server, I received an email from Murat Yildirimoglu, a faithful reader in Turkey. Over the years, Murat has provided detailed technical feedback on our articles, so I was interested to see that he was sending me an open letter to Bill Gates. Murat wrote:

I want to say some things to Bill Gates: When I surf the Web, I see your speeches about gaming anywhere and articles from Microsoft Research about exotic new technologies and initiatives. Yet, when I want to install Windows Server 2003 on a machine with an SATA hard drive, I'm asked to insert a floppy disk on which the setup program expects to find a suitable driver; often, machines do not have floppy drives because floppies are so archaic now. Yet, when I want to install a service pack to Windows 2003, I must be careful about the language of the installation because English and Turkish versions have different service packs, though they are not functionally different. Yet, when I want to port my Windows XP hard disk to a different machine (with a different motherboard and hard disk combination) the new machine does not boot up.

Hey Bill! Stop this gaming business. Stop those exotic technologies.

First, fix the OS setups so that they won't require nasty floppy disks. Second, isolate the language dependencies from the core OS and make the language switching easy. Third, remove the motherboard and hard drive dependency, which prevents porting machines. These must be your focus, not money-losing gaming business. Listen to these words. These are the words of a man in the trenches.

I'm fairly certain Bill doesn't read my column, and the gaming business doesn't really have any connection with the solutions to Murat's concerns. But I think I can respond to some of Murat's points because Longhorn Server and Vista are explicitly addressing them. For example, the new Setup eliminates the need for floppies or other media to install drivers. (To read Paul Thurrott's reviews of Vista Beta 2 and Longhorn Server Beta 2, go to, and see "What You Need to Know About Longhorn Server Beta 2" on page 13. Michael Otey gives you his perspective on Vista on page 34, including a list of features included in the Enterprise-and Ultimate editions as well as a list of what's not included.)

Language Dependencies
Both Vista and Longhorn Server are built to be modular, which means you have to install only the components you need for the role each server will perform. Because of this modular design, you can install languages as optional components. This is a benefit for Microsoft's customers because it reduces the number of machine images that international companies need. Murat should no longer have to worry about different English and Turkish versions of service packs that are functionally the same.

And, by the way, Microsoft is touting this new functionality for its benefits to customers, but enabling the OS to be language-neutral is also a huge advantage and cost saving for Microsoft. Just imagine how much money Microsoft spends on localization for every release and every service pack and how much time-savings might result from being able to release a single version of the code separately from the localized content.

Machine Imaging
In Hey Microsoft!, "Vista Deployment and Einstein's Wisdom" (June 2006, InstantDoc ID 50011), I discussed the new Vista and Longhorn Server deployment technologies. The new file-based Vista and Longhorn Server Windows Imaging Format (WIM) lets you create one image and place it on any hardware (although you need separate images for 32-bit and 64-bit machines, of course). This hardware independence is possible because the new releases detect the Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL) of each machine on the fly.

Is Bill Listening?
So, Bill, just in case you do read this column, it's clear that Microsoft has recognized the needs of IT professionals like Murat. The problem Murat will continue to face, though, is how to deal with these problems on existing Windows 2003 and XP implementations for the next one to three years, before most IT shops roll out the Longhorn wave of products. If you're listening to the words of this man in the trenches, will you address his concerns for Windows 2003 and XP?

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